Mitch's Reviews > Red Heart Tattoo

Red Heart Tattoo by Lurlene McDaniel
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's review
Jul 27, 2012

really liked it

Red Heart Tattoo's one of those books that's gonna stay with me for awhile. A high school bombing's obviously a very heavy subject, but, for the most part, Lurlene McDaniel's writing handles it with emotion and poise. McDaniel doesn't exploit the tragedy for shock value and her words aren't dramatic to the point of being a tearjerker but rather subdued, which makes this book all the more emotional.

I have to admit I had trouble at the beginning. The prologue gave me the impression most of this book would be about the aftermath of the bombing, but turns out the end of chapter one is just a fake out. Instead, Tattoo follows the lives of five students via four different, alternating points of view before and after the bombing. Once I hit the midpoint of the book, when the bombing actually occurs, I realize it's actually excellently done, looking at how the bombing has changed the lives of all these students through the lens of a few particular characters. I just needed the shock of the blast to realize it.

I really liked following Morgan and Roth, two of the students. They have such different roles before the bombing, the popular class president and the outsider, and all these different issues they're dealing with. Morgan with her best friend Kelli's strange behavior, trouble with her boyfriend Trent, and going off to college in less than a year, Roth with his family issues, outsider status, and the long odds of him even graduating. Even before the bombing, these two are really complex characters.

But after the bombing, I'm shocked at how poignant McDaniel's writing is. It's not a matter of lots of tears being shed or everything being raw and emotional, but just from the way Morgan and Roth behave, I can see how the bombing changes - everything. Morgan's blinded, and just the way she deals with the aftermath of the tragedy, through her actions, I think something caught in my throat while I was reading. Sure, she adapts to sightlessness maybe a little too quickly, and the part with Trent was extremely obvious and not a great twist, but none of that really lessened the impact for me. And Roth, just the way he reacts to the bombing, what he does in the aftermath, and how this tragedy brings Morgan and him closer, it was all really deep. Even what happens to Kelli and her boyfriend Mark, it all shows how the bombing doesn't discriminate - it hits everyone no matter who they are, where they were when it happened.

Of course, there are four different points of view and they switch off every so often, which I didn't have a problem with because it allowed me to digest what had just happened, sort of maximized the emotional impact of the scenes for me. My problem is Kelli, who gets a few chapters to herself early on, sort of fades into the background after awhile, so while I liked her storyline, I really don't think she really needs a separate point of view from Morgan's. As for the last point of view, focusing on the bombers, no. This should have been a book about the victims, I didn't need to spend any time reading about them. And it's not like those two brought anything new to the table beyond a pair of stereotypical high school psychopaths.

If this book would've focused on Morgan and Roth exclusively, I can see myself giving it five stars. Even the epilogue, because even though the bombing changed everything and brought Morgan and Roth together, life's messy and I get it. But the addition of Kelli and the bombers left me less than fully satisfied.
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Reading Progress

July 27, 2012 – Started Reading
July 27, 2012 – Shelved
July 28, 2012 –
page 120
53.57% "Woah, explosion and now this book makes sense."
July 28, 2012 – Finished Reading

Comments (showing 1-2 of 2) (2 new)

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Melissa For the first time uh? :)

Mitch I think the problems with the book, the multiple abrupt changing povs, the fake outs, actually made it better.

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